Alaska Senate adjourns special session, leaving budget reforms to wait

The Alaska Senate on Monday officially ended the special legislative session called by Gov. Bill Walker, formally gaveling out before noon after just a handful of hearings and without votes on any of the deficit-reduction bills that Walker proposed.

The Senate had been set to hold committee hearings this week on Walker's tax legislation, and it also supported the linchpin of his plan to reduce the $3.2 billion deficit — his proposal to restructure the $54 billion Permanent Fund to help pay for government expenses.

But the House adjourned from the special session Friday, with members saying that none of Walker's proposals had the necessary support to pass that chamber. The House Finance Committee had already rejected the Permanent Fund legislation last month, with members objecting to the associated reduction to Alaskans' dividends.

The Senate could have pushed forward with meetings this week and forced the House back into session — Alaska's Constitution doesn't allow one chamber to end a legislative session unilaterally.

But Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said Friday that his chamber would likely adjourn Monday "if the motivation's not there from the House." The Senate ended its session on a motion by Sen. Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, approved without objection from the few senators in attendance.

Walker said last week that his budget reforms will likely have to wait until after the November elections when vacancies will assure there will be at least a few new legislators.

Of the nine deficit-reduction proposals introduced by Walker at the start of this year's legislative session in January, lawmakers approved just one: an amended version of Walker's bill to cut cash subsidies for small oil companies.

The eight-day special session that concluded Monday was the second called by Walker this year. The first took place in May and June and lasted four weeks, following a four-month regular session that included a month of extra time.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com